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Archaeology Notes

Event ID 783941

Category Descriptive Accounts

Type Archaeology Notes


HY41SW 10.00 44921 10872

(HY 4492 1087) Cathedral (NR)

OS 6" map, Orkney, 2nd ed., (1903).

HY41SW 10.01 HY 4494 1087 Hog-Backed stone

HY41SW 10.02 HY 44920 10910 War Memorial

HY41SW 10.03 Centred HY 44982 10867 Graveyard

HY41SW 10.04 HY 4494 1087 Sheela-na-gig

St Magnus Cathedral, founded by Earl Rognvald in 1137 and dedicated to his kinsman St. Magnus who had been executed at Egilsay in 1116. Building was completed 3 3/4 centuries after its foundations.

Although it is the most considerable monument erected in the Norse occupation, there is nothing distinctly Norse either in its technique or its design, and the original work may be confidently assigned to masons of the Durham school. The material used is the local flagstone used as rubble, with dressings of freestone from the Head of Holland, less than 3 miles away. The building is not church property but was conveyed to the 'Provost, Baillies, Councillors and Inhabitants of our said Burgh of Kirkwall' by Royal Charter in 1486 AD.

RCAHMS 1946; H Marwick 1954.

St Magnus Cathedral is administered by the Town Council and is in use as the Parish Church.

Visited by OS (NKB), 5 April 1964.

HY 449 109. A watching brief was undertaken during the demolition and rebuilding of a 50m section of the wall on the N side of the graveyard to St Magnus Cathedral. The graveyard wall was found to directly overlie the base of an earlier wall on the same line. Evidence survives for a boundary ditch and other activity pre-dating the establishment of the graveyard wall on its present line. Artefacts recovered are all post-medieval to recent date and there is no evidence for medieval or earlier activity.

Sponsor: Orkney Islands Council.

S Carter 1998

'The Orkney Herald' described the discovery of plated copper vessels at this site in 1877. The 'John O'Groat Journal' in 1849 mentions the discovery of a skeleton found in a SW wall (now believed to be that of Earl Erlend Haraldsson).

M Howe 2006.

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